OFFICE OF THE MINISTER OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING
P.O. BOX 50464,
15101 RIDGEWAY, LUSAKA
Telex No. ZA 40406 MSTVT
19TH JULY, 1992
Dear Mr. President,
LETTER OF RESIGNATION
I thank you for the trust and confidence you showed on appointing me as a Minister in the Cabinet. In your letter dated May 9th, 1992 you confirmed the appointment with effect from 7th November, 1991. You expressed our common view that the hour has come with “new vision”.
This is a vision of our people and country freed from the many adverse consequences of economic mismanagement. A vision of our state democratized in Government, political parties and society at large. A vision of accountable Government open to public scrutiny and freely subject to the people’s representatives in Parliament. A vision of honest leadership not bent ort taking personal advantage of public positions and public resources. A vision of wholesome progress.
The vision is being clouded and deformed, as the “hour” remains stuck at one O’clock. This promising future is not materializing because past attitudes, past pronouncements, past practices and past personality traits are still stuck with us. These characteristics breed economic mismanagement and political marginalisation.
They cause and complicate the problems we now have to redress. They will make the “hour” not to tick. They risk the “hour” being ticked off.
In my letter dated 14th May, 1992, I accepted my appointment as one of the Cabinet Ministers. I undertook to “do my best in concert with the collective efforts of our entire Government team.” I pointed out that the “principles, programmes and spirit of our party’s campaign for democratization are the key towards meeting aspirations of our people.”
The key to democracy and development is in danger of being buried in disconcert. This is due to inadequate consultation, involvement and agreement. It is also due to lack of mutual respect and mutual confidence. Government is featuring a credibility gap. This is caused by the reasonably justifiable public questioning of the honesty and integrity of some of our colleagues.
I am finding it impossible to give unreserved and honest support to all fellow members of government. This is with regard to their public pronouncements, business associations, conflicts of interest as well as public conduct and image.
I will make a reference to the specific example of the unceremoniously aborted debate on the Special Report of the Committee on Parastatal Bodies. I was unable to support what purported to have been the Government position. I would have been compelled to vote against the projected Government position if the Report had not been withdrawn.
I am strongly against the tactic applied to derail the debate on the Special Report. Government offered no alternative channel for openly scrutinizing and conclusively attending to the substantive issues raised. This is a shocking and undemocratic way of conducting Parliamentary affairs. It does not show government commitment to openness and resoluteness, in responding to the threatening cancer of financial irregularities. It seems to condone the misdirection of public offices and resources to private concerns and personal financial recovery. It undermines Government credibility. It betrays our people.
There was a casual acceptance of admitted disregard ‘for established and proper division of responsibility between Ministers and Public Servants as well as tender procedures. This was in the cases of procurement by the Ministry of Works and Supply and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. There was a glossing over of undeclared conflicts of interest and misuse of public offices to favour private business concerns. This was with reference to the conduct of the Bank of Zambia over Capital Bank. This is not good enough. It is unacceptable. We do not need to be policemen, prosecutors or judges to know it, condemn it and stop it.
To make matters worse, at no time was I consulted or taken into confidence in the determination of the government position on the Special Report. In any case, I do not see why the whole Government should necessarily have had a position. The Report concerned accusations involving the personal conduct of individual Ministers in affairs which have neither been considered nor approved by the Cabinet. It is unreasonable to expect Ministers to associate themselves with, or support action of other Ministers about which they know nothing.
To add poison to the wound, a few Government members personally conducted themselves unbecomingly in Parliament. They demonstrated arrogant, aggressive pursuit of suspected undeclared private interest, even at the expense of threatening to over-ride national interests. Otherwise to revert to the past habit of declaring that persons with opposing views were disloyal, disgruntled and tribalists. Even ambition and poverty were likened to crimes.
There were even emotional outbursts that those with different views from different parts of the country should get out of the Party and form their own. Difference of opinions between members from the same area was condemned in word and deed. Threats of violence were also raised.
Clearly, what is evolving is the deplorable old culture of conducting public affairs by organising different sections of society against each other, in support of personal interests. These interests are personal. They do not benefit the people from the alleged support section. This is a threat to the integrity of the nation. It undermines the process of equitable national integration. It turns the clock backwards. It is unacceptable.
We do not need tons of proof to crush and protect this ugly head of deceitful sectionalism, whereby the corrupt hoodwink their own ethnic group members into supporting them against the forces of justice and honesty. There are also other, even more critical issue areas in which the cloak of Cabinet membership, under the present practices and procedures, is inhibitive of free and open deliberations.
As a Cabinet Minister, I have been constrained to, or even commenting upon, some critical issues such as:-
• the resistance to the need for the Republican Constitution review aimed at further democratization and diffusion of power;
• the neglect and disorganization of the party as well as the negative attitude towards differing views within the party;
• the insensitivity to perceptions and realities of social sectional inequities and gender injustices;
• the lack of prior and wider consultations in the determination of some of the major economic policies.
• the disregard of party relating to parastatal and public service appointments based on open competition and merit;
• the predominance of reactionary stances and lack of balance in the conduct of international relations;
• the inconsistencies over the application of freedom of association in the labour movement;
• the less than transparent and clearly unfair process of distributing financial support to constituencies’ on an undeclared selective basis;
• the undemocratic and inconsistent methods of vetting and selecting Parliamentary candidates;
• the confusing multiplicity and conflicting organizational structures and operations of law enforcement administration, including the improper integration of Presidential, and Police functions in some critical areas such as the operations of the “Office of the President”, SITET and ACC;
• the marginalisation of the production and income generating (supply side) and debt husbandry aspects of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
I am not surprised that our colleagues, Hon. Baldwin Nkumbula, MP have had to resign from the Cabinet in protest. It would have been preferable for those whose reputations and conduct is casting Government in bad light and risking national unity to be the ones shifting, by resignation or re-assignment.
Mr. President, the buck must stop with you. Of course, this is a matter of your own prerogative. But, we should not be taking chances or pulling punches with processes and practices that give room for ‘clever’ conniving and corrupt leaders. We must decisively strike and strive for a clear, committed and clean Government. We should not stop the democratization clock. We must prioritise the ongoing, need for constitutional review both at party and state levels.
In view of the above, I am, hereby, resigning the position of Minister of Science, Technology and Vocational Training. I am not able to publicly or privately accept pronouncements, conduct and parliamentary position made in the name of the Cabinet, but which do not adhere to the principles and spirit of our party’s campaign for public accountability, broad consultation, equitable participation as well as a clean and fair Government.
Once again, I thank you for the opportunity to have served our people as a member of the Cabinet. I shall endeavour to continue this service in the National Assembly, the Party and other forums. The “Hour” must tick in government and non-governmental as well as partisan, non-partisan and multi-partisan forums.
Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika, M P
cc. The Vice-President and Leader of the House
cc. The Speaker, National Assembly